Digital Skills Crucial in Terminating Gender Pay Breach

Women who want to close the gender wage gap in developing nations should hone their digital skills, while those in developed countries should establish long-term career strategies, according to a new Accenture Research study.

The report, “Getting to Equal 2017: Closing the Gender Pay Gap,” claims that by utilizing digital communication, improving technology skills and proactively strategizing career planning, women could narrow the wage gap by 35 per cent and add nearly $4 trillion to their income globally by 2030.

On average around the world, women make about $100 for every $140 men earn, the study found. But when accounting for unpaid labour, such as cooking, cleaning and other household chores, researchers say the gap significantly increases: Women earn just $100 for every $258 men make.

Unpaid labour is especially prevalent in the developing world, says Julie Sweet, CEO for Accenture’s North America operations, and can make it more difficult for women to learn basic digital skills that allow them to participate in the paid workforce without requiring a strong educational background.

“Digital fluency is literally your ability to do things like banking online, to connect with people, to use a device and the internet in a very easy way,” Sweet says. “Those skills are skills that are in demand in the workplace, that are kind of prerequisites to getting many jobs in today’s world.”

The impact is higher in developing countries, but still important in developed markets: Online communication skills allow flexibility for education and employment opportunities through online classes, telecommuting and networking.

Improving digital communication skills could narrow the wage gap by 21 per cent globally, according to the report, which surveyed more than 28,000 people from 29 countries. Digital fluency is especially important for mothers, who face a wage gap not only with fathers, but with other working women.

Communicating digitally isn’t enough to close the gap, though; women must forge ahead in high-demand STEM fields, according to the study. The 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index shows that while women do outnumber men in some fields, such as biology, they are sorely underrepresented in some of the most lucrative industries, such as computer science and engineering.

Interest in math is all it takes for teenage boys to consider physics careers, while teenage girls need to score well on exams to think about going for jobs in the math-heavy field, a study finds.

Even gaining additional technology exposure, such as designing a website or taking an introductory coding course, can help women fast-track their careers, according to the report. Of women surveyed in senior management positions, 37 per cent studied a STEM field or used their digital experience to advance their careers.

“What you want is to have women at the same pace as men doing tech immersion,” Sweet says. “It’s not that every woman has to do it, but to close the gap you need to have them do it at the same pace as men…..Men are significantly outstripping women in taking those kinds of courses and then later taking the training and then adopting it in their jobs.”


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